Album: R.E.M. Accelerate (Warner Brothers)

2.00

When I caught R.E.M. rehearsing material from this album at last year's Dublin shows, the new songs sounded fresh and intriguing. I don't know what's happened in the interim, but Accelerate isn't anything like as exciting as anticipated. Its muscular riffing recalls the mainstream-rock moves of Lifes Rich Pageant and Document but, crucially, without the winning melodies and the sense of ambitious necessity.

"Living Well's the Best Revenge" opens the album with a surging swagger, while Michael Stipe offers what is, by his standards, a charmless and clichéd lyric about having it large: "History will set me free/ The future's ours, so get on in..." The withering sarcasm of "Mansized Wreath" seems churlish, a dissatisfying substitute for the less literal lyrical conceits of earlier albums.

There's a Ziggy Stardust flavour to the single "Supernatural Superserious", in both the riff and the bitter sense of loss behind lines like "You realise your fantasies/ Are dressed up in travesties"; but it lacks the anthemic, uplifting quality of much of Bowie's and R.E.M.'s best work. "Hollow Man" is better, a heart-searching piano-based number about someone struggling to define themselves. "I've been lost inside my head, echoes follow me," sings Stipe, repeatedly resolving into a chorus of "Believe in me, believe in nothing": it's as if, after decades as rock's most thoughtful conscience, he's suffering doubts.

Elsewhere, brooding organ chords cast a lowering sky over the brief rumination on the state of Texas, "Houston", and over the title track itself, a fraught piece that seems to extend further the Hollow Man's desperate desire to escape his situation – "Where is the ripcord, the trapdoor, the key?" – and find completeness in a new direction. In case anyone believes this escape might involve Stipe's departure from the rock'n'roll circus, he's at pains to point out, in the surly rocker "Horse to Water" and the concluding "I'm Gonna DJ", that he's not to be second-guessed in this manner. "Hey, steady steady, I don't wanna go until I'm good and ready," he proclaims, explaining his intention to "deejay at the end of the world".

Sadly, Accelerate does not bode well for R.E.M.'s future, despite the familiar bullish talk of being "back on form". Apart from the 12-string guitars in "Until the Day Is Done", there's scant evidence of the group's once sublime folk-rock stylings. The album is over-heavy with stodge and weighty riffs, and short on subtlety. It sounds as if, in seeking to revitalise their muse, the group have confused sheer power with progress.

Pick of the album: 'Hollow Man', 'Until the Day is Done', 'I'm Gonna DJ'

Click here to buy this album

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living